Two Weddings And A Funeral

Back to last weekend…

Our mam’s passing wasn’t the worst bit, sad and emotional as it was. Because Ross, Rob and I sat talking to her through to the end, and we could just sense a wee flickering of her eyes from time to time, we took comfort from the fact that she knew she we were there: she didn’t die alone, and that really, really, really matters. I can think of nothing worse.

No, the worst bit was when everyone went home on the Sunday and I was left on my own to reflect on the events of the previous few days. That was when it hit me. Rob and I had sorted a load of procedural stuff on the Friday but that still left a lot of loose ends to tie up, not the least of which was the involvement of the coroner. That, at a stroke, had the potential to derail our best laid plans and lead to a whole load more grief. But fortunately I was liaising with a woman at the coroner’s office who was simply superb in the calm, reassuring way that she went about her job. I came away from that experience thinking that if ever someone was in the right job, it was this lady.

I was down in Congleton with two laptops, my bike and my phone: two laptops so I could do the personal stuff on one, and God forbid, try and deliver on the work front on the other. Those moments were fleeting, not particularly productive, and best left till another day (which is ultimately what happened).

By Monday I was a bit of a mess: not sleeping properly, in a sleeping bag on a strange bed and waking up frequently. I was mentally and physically shattered. What saved me, emotionally, was brain dumping the events of Thursday in the blog that ultimately became The Longest Day. Published around 9:30pm on Monday night, I was stunned when I woke on Tuesday morning to find that it had been read by over 1200 people. “Where did they all come from?” I thought. The answer of course, is simple: they came from the LCFN community, the same people who love Eileidh, love all the other kids, and whose default setting is to care about people. I want to thank everyone one of you for reading about our mam. I know it was personal; I know it was raw, but telling that story made a huge, huge difference to the way I felt. I wanted to share the burden, I needed to share the burden, and it was you, reading this just now, that helped to make a difference to that way I felt from Tuesday onwards. It was like you put some of the pieces of me back together. Thank you.

The bike was also my saviour. I said on Facebook earlier in the week that the only way I was getting through this was by keeping busy, and what better way than to be out there on the road.

The Friday and Saturday rides were difficult, the former because it was squashed in between a trip to the hospital to tie up some loose ends, and a meeting at the funeral director to kickstart the process. I used to run those rural roads down in Congleton back in the day (when I was a runner) so I know where all the local routes go. But to achieve anything of LCFN standard, you need to go further afield so there was a fair amount of making it up as I went along, and that necessarily involved a few wrong turns and some short stretches on roads I’d much rather not have been on…

I’ll say this once: Cheshire roads are typically twisty and a 50m straight is something of a rarity. But the roads are flat so you can absolutely tank it on a road bike: and that’s why I’m utterly disgusted at the standard of driving. I personally didn’t feel particularly threatened at any time because I ride defensively, but why oh why did that arsehole decide to overtake, wholly on the other side of the road, on double white lines when there was an artic bearing down not 50m away with a combined closing speed of 90mph. And why did another artic driver do exactly the same thing on double white lines going round a bend with traffic coming the other way? Cheshire drivers have a death wish and if ever traffic cameras were needed for public safety, it’s on those roads: if it was up to me, I’d put cameras on every stretch that have double white lines: it would solve the national debt at a stroke.

On Saturday I just drove my body into the ground (no pun intended). I’d sussed out a quiet, flattish 5 mile country circuit of single track and unmarked roads and absolutely hammered it. I just felt like doing it. I needed to do it. By the time I was round the second circuit, it became an exercise in how long my legs could hang on at that pace. I managed five before I (wisely) called it a day, and when I got back to base, I made a Strava segment out of that loop and named it after the Brummie “Oil Give It Foive” catchphrase of Janice Nicholls on Thank Your Lucky Stars when we were kids. The locals will never know it, but that circuit is in memory of our mam, and until one of them spots it, I’ll have the King Of The Mountains. KOTM??? I think there are only about two hundred feet of climbing in the whole circuit!!!

The rest of my week down there was a case of piling in the miles so I didn’t have to think about our mam: so much so that I stand here tonight needing only 29 miles this weekend to bank the 77th two hundred miler since the off. That cherished dream of a ton of double hunnerds edges ever closer.

And so to happier times…

On Sunday, I’ll be out on my bike just after dawn because I’ve got an important date in Aberdeen early in the afternoon: Eileidh’s getting ‘married’. Eileidh and her sweetheart Harrison decided some time back that they wanted this to happen, and when Gail put together Eileidh’s bucket list, the ‘wedding’ was top of the pile. So many people have come together to put this one for the kids, it’s truly remarkable. I know it’s only make believe, but businesses and people right across the north east of Scotland have come together and donated their time and their skills free of charge just so that this can happen. I know that Gail was offered a castle just outside Aberdeen, but the need to have Eileidh in close proximity to the hospital would have made that an inopportune venue. So instead, 300 invited guests are all piling into the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre where the ceremony will take place in a wee room, live streamed out onto big screens in the main arena. It promises to be a truly magical event.

Nic Naish, one of LCFN’s most precious supporters, came up with the bright idea of us flying Amelie over from Australia to perform Puddles at the ‘wedding’. Nic started selling EJ/LCFN wristbands like they were going out of fashion, and it was only when her donations were approaching £400 that I had the unenviable task of telling her that logistical issues in Adelaide meant that Amelie was unable to make the trip. The money raised has instead gone into Eileidh’s bucket list fund. Cue plan B: Distraught from not being able to make the trip, Amelie wrote a new song to follow the immortal Puddles, specially for the ‘wedding’. You can watch her spine tingling performance here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/i9vvuzbvuwtptaz/take%20my%20hand.mp4?dl=0

With a bit of luck, Take My Hand will also go on the big screen on Sunday, and Aberdeen will be flooded with tears.

But that’s not the end of the wedding bells…

In three weeks time, our Ross, the eldest of our tribe, will be marrying his sweetheart Stacey. What a fabulous couple they make. Ross prides himself on being a bit of a lad, even at 27, but I tell you what, I know who wears the trousers in that relationship. Stacey is one totally switched on young lady and she’s going to be a great addition to our family. Ironically, the Taylor tribe get together so infrequently because we’re spread out all over the country, that the summer of ’17 will go down for all the right and wrong reasons. A wake last weekend, a funeral next weekend and a wedding two weeks after that: or as they say out Hollywood way…

Two weddings and a funeral.